SALT LAKE CITY — Player trade requests, specifically a couple to get out of Brooklyn, shook the NBA at the trade deadline. Kyrie Irving couldn’t get the contract extension he wanted in Brooklyn and in response requested a trade. A few days later he was a Dallas Maverick. In the wake of that, Kevin Durant more quietly asked for a trade and found his way to Phoenix.
When asked during NBA All-Star media day if players requesting trades is bad for the league, Durant pushed back, saying they are “great for the NBA.” (Ben Golliver of the Washington Post has the video).
Suns’ Kevin Durant says trade requests are “great for the league” despite criticism: “Teams have been trading players and making acquisitions for a long time. Now a player can dictate where he wants to go, leave in free agency or demand a trade, it’s just part of the game now.” pic.twitter.com/zyzphfrp2f
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) February 18, 2023
“I don’t think it’s bad for the league, it’s bringing more eyes to the league, more people are more excited. The Tweets that I get, the news hits that we got from me being traded, Kyrie being traded, it just brings more attention to the league and that’s really what makes you money, when you get more attention. So I think it’s great for the league to be honest. Teams been trading players and making acquisitions for a long time, now when a player can kind of dictate where he wants to go and leave in free agency or demand a trade, that’s part of the game now so I don’t think it’s a bad thing.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver feels differently.
“Player trade demands are a bad thing,” Silver said on SportsCenter this week. “We don’t want them to happen, and we’ve got to focus on that and make sure that everyone is honoring their agreements.”
Of course, Silver works at the pleasure of the owners, and those owners want as much control over the process and players as possible.
And that’s the dividing line on this topic: How much power do people feel players should have over this process? NBA teams sign players to deals then turn around and quickly trade them, uprooting their lives — even max players, ask Blake Griffin about his exit from the Clippers. Players with leverage to demand a trade feel that it simply balances the scales with what teams can do.
This is all more nuanced than for fans. How they feel about a player who gave it his all to win and got let down by management differs from a player who was disruptive or never gave his team that all-in chance to make it work.
Durant is right about one thing — this is a transaction league now. Player movement — and rumors of player movement — draw more eyeballs and views more than the games themselves. It is what fans want. If the league ever figured out how to monetize all that transaction buzz, they would sing a different tune as well.